The opioid crisis is being handled in different ways by different companies at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.
Take McKesson Corp. (MCK) and its CEO, John Hammergren. He did a TV interview on Tuesday, Jan. 9, calling the idea that his company had not done enough to help with opioids "nonsense." Hammergren then elaborated, "I can't imagine any company of our size and scale, for a small amount of our business, to do something willfully and negligently to try to sell controlled substances."
Opioids make up just 2% of San Francisco-based McKesson's revenue, according to the CEO. But the company presented three slides during its presentation outlining its concerns with the opioid crisis and showing how it was involved in trying to deal more effectively with the growing problem of addiction to pain medications.
The company's anti-diversion platform focuses on eight different checkpoints designed to not only control the drugs but assure only the patient ended up with them and then only with the amount needed to address the condition.
Among the recommendations that Hammergren presented to investors was the creation of a national database that could track patients seeking to fill prescription opioid medication in real time, so that pharmacies and doctors would know in real time what patients were doing with the prescription they received.
The company did not give any details regarding the database idea.
"We understand the challenges, and we are doing our part," Hammergren said. "And we are doing beyond our part."
McKesson has chafed at the attention the company has received in recent weeks regarding its sale of opioid drugs. The company was mentioned prominently in stories by "60 Minutes" and The Washington Post regarding a $150 million settlement with the federal government over allegations that McKesson violated the Controlled Substances Act. McKesson maintains the stories have contained inaccurate information.
Pharmacy benefits manager Cardinal Health Inc. (CAH) , meanwhile, has chosen a different path in terms of the controversy. The company gave opioids no mention in its presentation at the conference Monday, and when the wave of lawsuits being brought by cities and counties against companies involved with opioids was brought up in a breakout session afterward by a reporter, CEO Mike Kaufmann said the company had behaved correctly and that any consideration of settling lawsuits was way down the road.
And he quickly moved on to the next question.
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